Monday, November 23, 2009

"Remembering Aviation Hero Floyd Bennett"

When I was a young boy, I remember my gram telling me about her cousin, famous aviator Floyd Bennett. She told me how he was the first man to fly an airplane to the North Pole!  I recall walking out in back of the Queensbury Little League fields, along an old decrepit paved road. One time, I found an old cannonball off in the woods back there, but that's another story, for another time. I also remember going into McDonald's in the Aviation Mall, and seeing pictures on their walls of an old airport in a somewhat familiar area. That area was the original Floyd Bennett Airfield, and was located where the Queensbury School Campus is today. The only remaining building from those days is the old bus garage, which was originally an airplane hanger. What was once the Warren County Airport, is now named the Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport.
Floyd Bennett was born in Warrensburg, New York October 25th 1890. He gave up school at 17 yrs. old and became a mechanic and part owner of a service garage. In 1917, he joined the U.S. Navy taking up aviation training. Although he became an able pilot, his superiors ordered him to stay on as an aviation mechanic. In 1925, he was given orders to join Lieutenant Richard Byrd's naval aviation group, which was teamed up with D.B. MacMillan's expedition to Greenland that year. His ability as a mechanic along with his personality caught the eye of Byrd, and he became two things, Byrd's friend and personal pilot.
After the Greenland expedition, Bennett and Byrd started planning a flight to the North Pole. In May of 1926, with a carefully planned out strategy, and a little luck, the two men carried out there goal, flying a 3-engine Fokker monoplane named the "Josephine Ford". The two men were awarded Medals of Honor, which were very rare awards to receive during peacetime! They were also given promotions! Byrd was made Commander and Bennett (by act of Congress) was made Warrant Mechanic! Bennett was also given a special medal by the National Geographic Society, presented by then President Calvin Coolidge. They then started making plans to cross the Atlantic, in a plane called the "America". Unfortunately, the America crashed in a test flight, almost killing Bennett, and opening the door for Charles Lindberg to make the flight. In Byrd's 1928-30 expedition to the South Pole, Bennett, who had made most of the plans, was made 2nd in command. Before the flight was to take place, Bennett and fellow collegue Bernt Balchen were to make a trip to Labrador. There, off the coast, layed a plane that went down, named the "Bremen", which was the first to cross the Atlantic Westwards. Strangely, on their way to salvage the plane in April of '28, Bennett became very sick and passed away in Quebec, Canada, at the young age of 38! His death was mourned by the nation, and he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.



  1. What a fascinating piece of history, and what brave and gallant men.
    Heroes, there's plenty of them out there, sadly we never get to read about most of them.
    Thank you for this wonderful post.